Food & Drink

A man sold a slaughtered pig for $200. He wound up under house arrest.

Where a slaughtered pig could end up: cooking for a holiday meal.
Where a slaughtered pig could end up: cooking for a holiday meal. Miami Herald File

Gilberto de Armas knew his Northwest Miami-Dade meat plant, Rubio Ranch, operated outside the federal food safety laws. But de Armas didn’t know enough about the Rubio Ranch customers paying him $200 for a slaughtered and dressed pig.

They were U.S. Department of Agriculture undercover agents. De Armas is midway through six months of house arrest, which start three years’ probation for sale of uninspected and adulturated meat products.

His punishment, handed down in August in U.S. District Court, was announced in last week’s quarterly USDA-Food Safety Inspection Service enforcement report.

“USDA/FSIS regulations require that all slaughterhouses follow HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) principles, test product and are inspected,” said Bill Marler, one of the nation’s foremost food safety attorneys.

“If you are ignoring that, the risk is bacterial contamination — E. coli and Salmonella — primarily. That risks severe injury and death.”

Court documents stating facts on which both prosecutors and de Armas agree say Rubio Ranch “engaged in the business of slaughtering, processing, handling, storing and selling of meat and meat food products in commerce for human consumption.”

But before doing so, “The Rubio Ranch facility never successfully passed required USDA inspections and the meat products produced there, capable and actually intended for human consumption were never inspected and passed by the USDA as required by the (Federal Meat Inspection Act).”

Court documents also say once de Armas negotiated price and pig size with the undercover agents, a Rubio Ranch employee took a pig from a trailer with other animals to an open horse trailer. There, he “slaughtered and dressed the carcass under unsanitary conditions. Gilberto de Armas directed the employee to completely open the pig carcass for evisceration.”

When the pig carcass was inspected, it was “contaminated with porcine hairs, and plant and sand particles consistent with the unsanitary conditions observed at the site.”

De Armas gave the employee a $20 tip from the $200 cash he got from the undercover agents.

Rubio Ranch sat at 12201 NW 154th St., property owned by two couples, Arquimides and Marisol de Armas and Gilberto and Maricelis de Armas. Online county tax records say since paying 2014 property taxes, they’ve neglected to pay the $12,848.40 over three years of taxes since. The couples have claimed two homestead exemptions per year, according to records.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Gilberto De Armas, a licensed contractor and co-founder of Road Runner Electric, as being involved in the sale of uninspected and adulterated meat products and violating USDA food safety laws while under house arrest. While the two individuals share the same name, the Mr. De Armas that is the subject of the article is in no way affiliated with Road Runner Electric. Neither Mr. De Armas nor his wife Alina were engaged in the actions described in the story. We regret the error.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal